I had around ten minutes to Google Maeve Brennan before the talks about her work, that is currently on exhibition in The Whitworth started. It was pretty incredible to find how accomplished Brennan is as an artist considering she only graduated from Goldsmiths in London in 2012! It’s almost a little intimidating.
The Grand Hall (where the talk was taking place) is a mixture of old and new flowing together.
There’s the beautiful original parkade flooring thats been sanded and varnish to within an inch of it’s life. The wooden cladding on the walls cocoon you into the centre of the room. The iron trim on the windows letting that low winter sun glow flood in across The Hall, almost blinding to those at the back.
Then noticing all the little modern touches that are blending in along with original accents.
The wooden cladding that runs all away around the room is painted in that “in vogue” Orla Kiely muted, creamy and rather 60s-esque olive green that contrasts against the off white of The Hall’s walls. Lining the exposed wooden roof beams there’s little white Bose speakers, proudly accompanying a state of the art projector screen also fixed to an exposed beam.
I was becoming a little more transfixed with The Hall rather than the research on Maeve Brennan when the talk began to start.
Maeve Brennan’s work at exhibition is predominantly video based, but has included photography, installation and sculptures at times. Brennan’s last four pieces of work have all been set in the middle east, mainly Palestine and Lebanon. Although these places reputations proceed them, Brennan, who herself was based in Beirut, said that it has changed since they were last represented by the media (mainly during Lebanon War which ended in 1990).
Brennan prefers to live in these places whilst filming, as she feels proximity is key to her work in regards to collecting anecdotal evidence and meeting people native to that area. Collecting their stories creates a layered timeline, connecting the history, archaeology and architecture that surrounds them.
The Drift, Brennan’s new film currently exhibiting at The Whitworth, is her latest work that centres around architecture and a particular stone used in buildings and temples in Lebanon. The idea was brought on by Brennan’s great grandfather’s pictures of a certain building that he was asked to investigate when he was an architect many years ago (time frame unspecified). His illustration showed the different layers where the building had been renovated over 14 centuries. It was this layering of history that intrigued Brennan to pursue this subject for The Drift, following in her great grandfather’s footsteps to the same building.
Brennan’s talk was laced with little stories that had happened throughout filming which only enrich her work further. In her words she likes to keep her filming lose and slow paced so that real life moments can take place which captivate the audience placing their attention on the people and their stories along with the objects on display within the film.
It’s this story telling that I found the most intriguing in her work. Let’s not cross words here, Brennan’s The Drift is visually stunning; it’s saturated in rich organic colours that come from her surroundings but I don’t think that the visual/physical element is The Drifts’s strongest component. I think that it is the stories and Brennan herself that make this work interesting.
The fragments of historical and modern stories from a range of ages creates this wonderful contemporary narrative that flows through The Drift. On a few occasions throughout the talk Brennan describes the people in her film as “characters”. One even been called “The Smuggler” as the name suggests their occupation is to smuggle artefacts across the boarder (most ending up in London museums!) so obviously their identity could not be revealed!
Muhammed, a young man that Brennan met whilst filming, became their contemporary story teller whilst driving them around the area. Muhammed gave insight into his life in Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, roads he couldn’t drive down because of previous convictions, unsuccessfully looting temples with his friends etc. It’s that real life, non forced connection that gives The Drift life.
It was like sitting on the carpet during story time at primary school again, it was such a wonderful and interesting insight into Brennan’s latest work.
As I have stated in previous blog posts, it is the stories behind the art that make it so much more appealing. The stories put you in the art rather then just viewing it.
Brennan is currently working in Scotland, filming her new piece that focuses on wind turbines and their interaction with the environment around them.